Robert Schwebel (AZ): ‘I’m Very Frightened by What’s Going On’
Robert Schwebel (71), a Democrat from Tucson, AZ, is a clinical psychologist specializing in drug abuse. He had his bar mitzvah in Hungary, where his parents were on teaching sabbaticals. He created a drug counseling program focusing on the reasons behind addiction and recently published Leap of Power: Take Control of Alcohol, Drugs, and Your Life. Schwebel is also a human rights activist and has volunteered his time doing intake interviews for immigrants seeking asylum.
What issues most concern you in this election cycle?
From a professional point of view, drug policy is at the top of the list. I’m also concerned about all the wars the United States is involved in, including the threat of nuclear annihilation. I always resented it when people said things like, “Please clap for all our soldiers.” I wanted to say, “What about the waste of money?” And I’m concerned about the climate and recklessness on that issue. I’m also concerned about racism and economic disparity. Those two are tied to my interest in drug policy. So much drug policy has been dictated by racism.
Does your Judaism affect your political views?
I used to think Jews were all progressive; that as a group we were fighting for minorities and progressive causes. But I think that’s changed in my lifetime. I used to feel proud of Jewish progressive leanings, and I don’t see that anymore. I have to admit, I like that Bernie Sanders is Jewish, that there’s Jewish representation. And I very clearly remember my parents saying to me, “You can be successful in whatever you do, but you have to make a contribution.” And I think that’s Jewish. I never wanted success or money for its own sake. I want success in order to do good.
Why are Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren your top choices?
I voted for Bernie last time—I like Bernie. I like Elizabeth Warren’s policy statements; I like progressive policies. I’m quite surprised when people say, “Oh, I’d never vote for her.” It sounds like what some people said about Hillary, and I don’t know if that’s because of how they feel about women, or whether there’s something in particular about Elizabeth Warren.
Are there any character traits that make a candidate unacceptable to you?
I think the current president isn’t qualified to run the country. I don’t know how much of it is policy and how much of it is a severe psychological disturbance; someone who is totally focused on himself and his personal greed. It’s hard to separate the two.
Are there disagreements or conflicts about politics in your own family?
My wife and I and our older son are in fairly close agreement. Our younger son is more in favor of small government and local issues, so there are some disagreements with him. He wouldn’t call himself a libertarian, but we have discussions where I talk about good government, and he says, “Name one good government,” which can be very challenging. When he was younger, we dragged him along to all the political activities, which he was never thrilled with. If anyone’s trying to convince anyone at this point, it’s him trying to convince me.
If your top candidates do not win the nomination, will you stick with the chosen Democratic candidate?
Absolutely. I’m very frightened by what’s going on. I’m really frightened by what could happen in this country. I’m frightened about the potential loss of democracy and the rule of law. I fear for the future of the climate, the future of the world and for the potential of war—even nuclear war. Being 71 years old, I remember how people were scared about nuclear war, and I don’t know why people aren’t more scared right now. We have people of very questionable judgment with their finger on the button. That’s one of the reasons why I’d vote for any Democratic candidate.